Steamboat Springs Nordic skier prepares for national championships
Steamboat Springs — After achieving strong results at events in West Yellowstone in late November and at Gold Run in Breckenridge earlier this month, Steamboat Springs Nordic skier Wyatt Gebhardt, 17, is riding high as he looks forward to one of his biggest races of the season.
“Wyatt is a very level-headed skier,” said Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Brian Tate. “He knows what he has to do and focuses on what’s at hand.”
The next big race for the local skier is the L.L. Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships, which are scheduled to take place Jan. 7 to 12 at Soldier Hollow in Utah. The location was picked because the 2002 Olympic venue will also host the Junior and U23 World Championships later this winter.
Gebhardt is hoping a strong showing at the national event will help propel him to a spot on a USSA training team and maybe a shot at the Junior World Championships.
The Junior World Championships are traditionally run over a period of a week, with events in cross country, ski jumping and Nordic combined. Athletes range in age from 16 to 20 and compete in 17 events across the disciplines.
But Gebhardt doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself.
“The goals have stayed the same,” Gebhardt said. “I started the year planning for senior nationals and trying to qualify for the U18 trip to Norway.”
To get there, Gebhardt will need to be among the top six boys in his age group at the senior nationals — a goal that his coach believes is well within reach after the Steamboat skier picked up a first- and third-place finish in Yellowstone, winning his age class, and placed second overall at Gold Run in Breckenridge in races last week that drew a field that included top collegiate skiers and even a former NCAA champion.
“It was really cool to race against the top college athletes,” Gebhardt said. “It felt good to compete against them and then to stand up and finish.”
He will be hoping for a similar performance when he steps to the starting line of the senior national championships. The skier, who got his start as a Nordic combined athlete, admits that a top finish at the senior nationals would open a few doors.
“We have a really good training program here in Steamboat,” Gebhardt said. “It’s just fun to ski with some of my friends. I grew up around Nordic skiing. It’s a cool sport … I enjoy going out and skiing on the pass more than heading up and skiing down the mountain.”
If things go his way later this month, the Steamboat Springs skier could end up skiing in Norway with some of the best U18 skiers in the world.
“The idea of this team is to open the eyes of the young Nordic competitors in our country,” Tate said. “It’s a chance for these young athletes to travel overseas and to train and race in a foreign environment, so that they will be better prepared when they get older.”
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